Seven years after lawmakers reopened Florida A&M University’s law school with $40-million in taxpayer dollars, the school has received full accreditation -- overcoming a tumultuous track record of leadership turnover, faculty rancor and academic concerns.
The American Bar Association this afternoon granted full accreditation — a national stamp of approval that is vital to the school’s reputation and long-term survival. The decision by the ABA’s Council on Legal Education Opportunity is a major victory for the historically black College of Law, which reopened in 2002, more than three decades after legislators shut it down amid court-ordered desegregation.
"It's probably the best news we've had in 2009," said FAMU graduate Sen. Al Lawson, who spent 12 years working to get the law school reopened. "It's been a long haul, and I think it's a real credit to the administration."
Lawmakers reestablished the law school with high expectations about training a more diverse pool of attorneys for the increasingly diverse Sunshine State. FAMU officials and law school alumni said Friday’s ABA decision is proof the law school has moved beyond the earlier struggles that garnered so many negative headlines.
Until Friday, FAMU law had only provisional, or temporary, accreditation. Graduates of an unaccredited law school cannot take the Florida Bar exam.
“This is obviously a particularly historic event, given all that has happened in the past,” said law school Dean LeRoy Pernell. “Certainly accreditation is an indication of quality. And it allows us to continue to provide an important opportunity to a wide array of individuals, to make them leaders in the legal profession.”
Gov. Charlie Crist immediately issued a statement: "I want to congratulate Florida A&M University College of Law on earning full accreditation. Their commitment to academic excellence is helping prepare future attorneys from Florida and around the globe to meet the legal needs of their communities. This well-deserved achievement is the result of a college-wide dedication to enhancing student services and programs and increasing education and career opportunities.”